Exploring the conceptual framework and measurement model of intrinsic capacity defined by the World Health Organization: A scoping review

K. Koivunen, L. A. Schaap, E. O. Hoogendijk, L. J. Schoonmade, M. Huisman, N. M. van Schoor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


WHO has defined intrinsic capacity (IC) as the composite of all physical and mental capacities of an individual covering five subdomains: cognition, locomotion, sensory, vitality, and psychological. Despite this well accepted definition, the conceptual and measurement model of IC remains unclear, which hampers a standardized operationalization of the construct. We performed a scoping review to give a comprehensive overview of the extent to which the current literature of IC addresses and assumes the conceptual framework and measurement model of IC as reflective or formative. For inclusion, we considered all types of articles that were published in peer-reviewed journals except for protocol articles. A systematic search of 6 databases from different disciplines led to the inclusion of 31 papers. We found inconsistency and gaps in the descriptions of IC. Most of the papers did not define the measurement model. In the conceptual background and validation articles, we identified descriptions of both reflective and formative measurement models while in empirical studies applying IC measurements the underlying assumptions remained mainly unclear. Defining a measurement model is not merely a theoretical matter but influences the operationalization and validation processes of the construct. This study raised questions about the most fundamental features of the IC construct and discusses whether IC should be considered as an underlying latent trait of all capacities (reflective construct) or an aggregate summary measure of the subdomain capacities (formative construct).
Original languageEnglish
Article number101685
Pages (from-to)101685
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
Early online date10 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Functional ability
  • Healthy aging
  • Measurement model
  • Older adults
  • WHO

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